lifestyle

BLOG: Not one woman makes this list. (And we're thrilled about it.)

Olympic swimmers.

 

By JAMILA RIZVI

When two Wallabies players decided to go for burgers at 3.00am, the night before a rugby test against England that only takes place every twelve years – that was an idiotic move.

When the likes of Bernard Tomic and Mark Philopousis (some of our most outstanding tennis talent) acted like playing Davis Cup for their country was beneath them – that was selfish and ungrateful.

And when six members of the Australian men’s swim team decided to take Stilnox and party into the night at the London Olympics’ Athletes Village, putting theirs and (more distressingly) their teammates’ success at risk – that was just plain stupid.

So last week when respected columnist Peter FitzSimons wrote a piece for Fairfax titled ‘Why, oh why, does Gen Y not get it?’ in which he bemoaned the current brood of elite Australian athletes – he certainly had ample evidence to support his case.

FitzSimons said:

“There seems to be truth to the notion that something is missing in the current generation when it comes to what is expected of them when accorded the sacred privilege of ”playing for Australia”….

Is it not true most of our national teams have lost their way in the past decade or so? That whereas we used to rule the roost in so many sports, we are now more likely to be the feather dusters making up the numbers? Isn’t it obvious that, all too frequently, part of the problem seems to be… lack of hunger?”

Peter Fitzsimmons

FitzSimons didn’t hold back as he took aim at James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale, Nick D’Arcy, James Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, Tommaso D’Orogna, James Roberts, Matt Targett, Cameron McEvoy, Michael Clarke, Mark Philiposous and Bernard Tomic.

The problem, FitzSimons claims, is their Gen Y-ness.

When compared with the generation of athletes who came before them, these blokes just don’t cut the low-carb, high protein mustard. They aren’t grateful for the opportunities they’ve been given. They don’t wear the green and gold with the requisite level of pride. They don’t respect the fans who believe in them and look up to them as heroes. They don’t work hard enough.

Instead of behaving like bratty rich kids, these athletes should look, says FitzSimons, to the superstar Australian rugby and tennis players, swimmers and cricketers, who came before them. The baby boomers or gen X-ers who trained with dedication, displayed unrivaled patriotism and were in sport to push the boundaries of physical human achievement – rather than hanging out for a good time, big money and cute babes.

Fair point.

But how about these athletes look sideways instead of backwards: To the women’s teams who play alongside them.

You don’t see Australia’s sportswomen making the list of Badly Behaved Douche-Canoes.

Elyse Perry is 22-years-old and representing her country in both soccer and cricket. Oh and when she’s not busy, you know, winning the Cricket World Cup final against the West Indies, she’s studying economics and social sciences at the University of Sydney.

Sally Fitzgibbons is currently ranked number 3 in the world.

Sally Fitzgibbons is 20-years-old, a professional surfer who is currently ranked number three in the world.

Sally has just taken up a new ambassador-type role with the NSW Police, where she uses her celebrity to make sure Australians at the beach use common sense, limit their alcohol intake and stay safe over summer.

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Laura Geitz is the captain of the Queensland Firebirds and was recently named Captain of the Australian netball team the Diamonds as well.

She is a student at the Queensland University of Technology and in her school holidays runs netball clinics for young players.

Most of her teammates are unable to make a living from their sport, so they work part or full time to support themselves, while also training incredibly hard.

These woman are amazing, inspiring and switched on; they work damn hard for the honour of representing their country. And because of the lower prize money, sponsorship dollars and funding available to women’s sport, it is often a far tougher road for female athletes trying to make it to the top. If you’re working full time and training, or fundraising for every last dollar to get you to that next international tournament – you have to want it. Badly.

I’m not sure if the reason for the bad behaviour of so many young male athletes is about their generation. To be honest, I suspect it’s more to do with the rapid transition from being a school kid who trains with every spare minute of their time, to an adult with a six figure income and on-the-street recognition, virtually overnight.

Our current crop of elite sportspeople – well the blokes anyway (don’t get me started on the pittance most female athletes earn) who are being paid and lauded in excess of any generation who came before them.

Cate Campbell is an olympic gold medalist.

As sport becomes increasingly corporatised and as young people with phenomenal natural talent come into large sums of money earlier in their careers, there will be risks.

And those risks are that athletes can lose sight of what elite sport is really about: pushing the boundaries of physical human ability to its absolute limits.

Our male athletes do seem to have had a rather long run of less-than-impressive behaviour.

Critically, it’s being matched by less than impressive results and performance on the field, on the court and in the pool. But the results that our female athletes are achieving? Well, they speak for themselves.

Fairfax reports:

Women accounted for 57 per cent of Australia’s medals at the London Olympics, up from 38 per cent at the Sydney 2000 Games. Since then they’ve led the rehabilitation from a relatively poor London showing, with freestyle swimmer Cate Campbell, BMX cyclist Caroline Buchanan, taekwondo athlete Carmen Marton and sculler Kim Crow all joining Fox as world champions.

Outside that, as the men’s cricket team blundered blindly through its Ashes tour of England, the women’s Southern Stars shone brightly to win both the One Day and Twenty20 world cups. The Jillaroos also took home the women’s rugby league World Cup, and netball’s Diamonds on the weekend wrapped up a 4-1 Constellation Cup victory over New Zealand’s Silver Ferns.

And FitzSimons is right when he says these young men need heroes to look up to and be guided by. What he fails to acknowledge is that a role model doesn’t need to be older, or to have gone before you. A role model doesn’t need to be the same gender.

A role model simply needs to be someone whose attitude, ethics and persona are worthy of admiration and imitation.

And for the male athletes of today – I don’t think they could do better than the rad chicks competing alongside them.

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